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The election-year landscape
Races are shaping up in New Hampshire

03/01/12



New Hampshire’s two Congressional districts could see distinctly interesting races. Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta could both face rematches this fall. Ann McLane Kuster, who nearly beat Bass for the open 2nd District seat in 2010, will challenge him again; she’s unlikely to face a primary challenge.

In the 1st District, Guinta could be again lining up against Carol Shea-Porter, who held the seat for two terms until Guinta beat her in 2010. Shea-Porter is in a contested primary against Andrew Hosmer and Joanne Dowdell. Guinta beat Shea-Porter by 12 points in 2010. It’s true that it was in a year in which Republicans across the board won, but the 1st District is seen as a more conservative district anyway.

Both Bass and Guinta could be vulnerable. A recent WMUR Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found both have relatively low favorability ratings. The poll surveyed, by phone, 527 randomly selected New Hampshire adults evenly split between the 1st and 2nd Districts, between Jan. 25 and Feb. 2. (For the record, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen continues to be the most popular member of the state’s delegation, according to the poll.)

Guinta experienced a slight improvement, with 33 percent of respondents having a favorable opinion of him, 28 percent unfavorable. Eight percent of respondents were neutral and a whopping 30 percent didn’t know enough about him. His net favorability, +5 percent, is up from 0 percent this past October.

The news is worse for Bass. The poll found that 35 percent of the 2nd District had an unfavorable opinion of him, while 30 percent viewed him favorably, 13 percent were neutral and 22 percent didn’t know enough about him. His net favorability is -5 percent, up from -7 percent in October.

While pundits knew Republicans were going to do well in 2010, many picked Kuster to beat Bass, as the race was neck and neck throughout. It was the only race that kept people up into late hours on election night. But the Republican tide was too much for Kuster to overcome, even in a more liberal district.

Which party has momentum?


That’s the question in the 2nd District. Republicans had it big time in 2010. They won’t have as much this year. But there hardly appears to be a big Democratic wave in the works, though many expect the political landscape to move to the center, in which case it’s easy to pick Kuster. She ran, by all accounts, a great campaign two years ago. Her campaign manager from 2010, Colin Van Ostern, who was heralded across the board, is running for Executive Council himself this year.

Kuster did everything right. She built the necessary grassroots support. But it wasn’t Bass’s first rodeo. He’s an experienced politician and he’s probably won plenty of points from moderates and some liberals for his stance on energy independence and renewable energy sources. In that, Bass is not a hardcore conservative. He couldn’t be to survive in that district.

Bass held the 2nd District seat from 1994 to 2006, when Paul Hodes beat him. Hodes left the seat open in 2010 when he ran for Senate, a move he probably would take back, since he lost handily to Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the general election. (When Hodes announced his run in early 2009, Democrats had just had incredible success in the 2008 election. It seemed Democrats had all the momentum ? but that fell apart quickly.)

This year could present one of the toughest challenges in Bass’s career. He’ll need all the political skill he’s acquired to hold off Kuster, who would presumably have a more energized base of supporters this time.

The 1st District

In the 1st District, Shea-Porter is in a contested primary. In the first candidate forum, the three candidates appeared hesitant to land any major blows, reports indicated. Shea-Porter would have the edge in the primary. She’s a known commodity and her grassroots organization was lauded in her two victories over Jeb Bradley, once when he was the incumbent congressman. Her showing in 2010 wasn’t good, but it’s unclear how much was her fault, given the Republican tide. Also, Shea-Porter kind of came out of nowhere in 2006. We’re not ruling out Andrew Hosmer or Joanne Dowdell, but it would be a tall order for either.

Democrats tried to attack Guinta on a questionable personal account with several hundred thousand dollars in it. He never fully explained where the money came from. But it almost seemed as though people weren’t listening or just didn’t care. Voters in 2010 wanted incumbents, particularly incumbent Democrats, out. Shea-Porter and the state Democratic party will probably continue to ask Guinta about the money.

Guinta hasn’t necessarily done anything extreme in office ? some might dispute that, of course ? and Shea-Porter will surely attack him as looking out for the top 1 percent. Her tag line has been that she’s running “for the rest of us.”

We’d expect the 1st District race, at the least, to be much closer this time.

The top of the ticket


President Barack Obama won New Hampshire easily in 2008, but his approval ratings dipped considerably during his term, particularly in New Hampshire. And then Obama jumped 18 points, from 10 down to 8 up, in recent polling in New Hampshire. That is good news for any Democrat, but he’s certainly not going to have the same coattails in 2012 as he did in 2008.

Gov. John Lynch won’t be at the top of the ticket, but he lacked coattails in 2010 anyway. It was clear many voters chose Lynch and then picked the GOP for the rest of the ballot.

The top-of-the-ticket dynamic will be important. If a gubernatorial candidate emerges with a big lead, that could have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the ballot. If Obama’s approval ratings drop or grow considerably, that too will have an impact throughout the ballot.






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